The town of Velankanni is considered to be amongst the most sacrosanct places of Christian pilgrimage in the country. The town is situated along the coast of Bay of Bengal in the district of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. The town lies at a distance of just 12 kilometres from the popular coast that is Coromandel. The town is well known for the church Basilica which is devoted to the "Lady of Health".
Pope is known to have pronounced Velankanni as a sacred city and thus, the Velankanni church is regarded as a city of the god which has been confirmed time and again since centuries. The city or rather town is dotingly referred to as the "Lourdes of the East". The church is believed to be an ideal blend of multicultural, spiritual and international harmony. The greatest respect which can be bestowed to a particular Church is the grade of Basilica. The word that is "Basilica" has been originally obtained from a Greek word "Basilike" which meant a Royal Hall. With the passage of time, this particular word signified a huge and magnificent hall. During the ancient period, the kings throughout the world in general and particularly from Rome established huge hall in order to carry out administrative works. The initial hall with the similar name that is Basilica was present in Athens. The "Lady of Health" is believed to cure all kinds of physical ailments. Several divine activities have been heard of in relation the church which made it quite popular and as a result of which a great rise in the number of devotees visiting the church has been recorded since years and the number keeps on escalating. The devotees are known to offer candles to the "Lady of Health" in different shapes during the time of ailments in order to get cured and this particular practice is supposed to be quite fascinating. The custom is that the candles offered usually represent the kind of ailment that one is suffering from. For instance in case of problems related to the heart, a heart shaped candle is offered and in case of tuberculosis, candles in the shape of lungs are offered. The devotees usually come back with small offerings such as silver or golden imitation of the organ after getting cured. Thus from religious point of view, it is important and holds the true essence to purify the soul from inside and outside.
There are known to exist three tales regarding the presence of Mary in Velankanni. The first legend dates back to the period of 1570, when a young local boy was carrying milk to a house close by. On his way he came across a good-looking woman with a child who requested for some quantity of milk for her child. The boy gave her some milk after which he resumed his journey and while delivering milk, he found that the milk jug was then absolutely filled with cool and fresh milk. A small place of worship was constructed close to the place where the little boy met the woman. The other legend relates to the year 1597 when a lame buttermilk boy was cured by a lady with a small child. The third legend states an event when a few Portuguese sailors were saved by Mary from a fierce sea storm.
The church or the Basilica was constructed during the mid-16th century and represents a Gothic pattern of architecture. The southern part of the church was expanded during 1928 and the northern side during 1933. The Shrine Basilica comprises three chapels along with Church Museum, Offering Center, Stations of the Rosary, Vailankanni Beach, Our Lady’s Tank, Priests’ Residence, Stations of the Cross and the Shrine Mega Mahal. The entire structure has been tinted in white colour other than the roof which has been made with stunning red coloured tiles. Thus one can see stunning piece of architecture which is truly show the gothic style of architecture in its brilliant form.